Concern-Trolling New Moms By Banning Formula Marketing Is A Waste Of Energy

174422657The New Zealand Commerce Commission has backed a proposal to prohibit marketing formula to infants under six-months old.This would include giving free samples to pregnant women and distributing samples to health care professionals. Yes, we’ve all heard the mantra “breast is best,” but this is seriously misdirected energy.

The New Zealand Herald reports that the chairman of the commission concedes that “restrictions on marketing and advertising activities typically limited the amount of information available to consumers, reducing competitive pressure and making consumers worse off.” But in this case, he thinks somehow consumers aren’t worse off: “In this instance, however, authorizing the INC’s Code of Practice is likely to have significant public health benefits. In particular, it is widely agreed that there are a variety of health benefits from breastfeeding, which could be adversely affected by the unrestricted marketing and advertising of infant formula.”

Unless the prohibiting of marketing is happening alongside incentives to make it easier for women to breastfeed, what’s the point? Instead of focusing on preventing aggressive marketing, how about focusing on improving the availability of lactation consultants, giving out free breast pumps, or focusing on an educational campaign that will equip women with the knowledge they need to succeed at breastfeeding?

Marketing restrictions imply that women are not making informed decisions; that decision as important as how they will feed their baby can be swayed by a free formula sample. Formula is a nutritionally sound way to feed your child. Not every woman wants to breastfeed or can. If she does have the desire to breastfeed, concentrating on supporting her is way more beneficial than concentrating on removing free samples at hospitals.

When I gave birth to my first child in NYC, there was very little hospital support for breastfeeding. Once I told the nurses I was planning on exclusively breastfeeding, the only “support” they gave me consisted of shoving a feeding chart in my face, repeatedly asking me if “I was sure” my baby was eating, and reminding me how dangerous it was for his blood sugar to drop. That kind of stress and misinformation does way more to derail breastfeeding than the few samples of formula the hospital gave me on the way out the door.

“The Women’s Health Action’s maternal and child health promoter Isis McKay said unrestricted marketing had been shown to negatively impact women’s efforts to breastfeed.” Fair enough. But there are many, many other factors involved that need to be addressed. Banning marketing just feels like concern-trolling.

(photo: Getty Images)

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